Berkeley, the Sixties and Me, Part 19 … STRAWBERRIES, CREAM AND A DISCARDED DREAM

Movies, movies and more movies ... could be scary, but a great life nevertheless!

“Oh boy, oh boy, this’ll be a monster of a career!”

When Professor Littlejohn pronounced my paper The Pop Documentary:  Its Past and Possibilities! deserving of “much wider distribution” he meant it … really meant it. Shortly afterwards I was stunned when, on the front page of the Daily Californian, I saw a promo piece directing readers to a full center page spread entitled The Pop Documentary! 

I really didn’t know what to think … but within the week found myself reviewing movies for the newspaper, which gave my recently adopted career goal a yes-you-can-do-it boost! In addition I found the free movie passes an attractive benefit as my budget allowed for maybe one or two movies a month.

However, if I didn’t know what to think about the gig at the Daily Cal, when I received an invitation from Professor Littlejohn to attend a garden party at his home I was doubly mystified.

Littlejohn greeted me warmly at his place in Kensington, a idyllic village nestled in the Berkeley Hills overlooking the city, the campus, San Francisco Bay, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge with the entire Pacific Ocean as a backdrop. His home had the warm, comfortable feeling of old library and opened out onto a picture-perfect garden with plenty of sunshine and well attired people.

It was all very English … strawberries and cream, copious quantities of drink and sparkling conversation all around. Dr. David Littlejohn PhD knew how to throw a party! In fact he was celebrated far and wide for it.

Imogen seeking perfect shadow and light

Imogen seeking perfect shadow and light

He loved parties and hosted a wide spectrum of guests from Nobel prize winners to complete unknowns like yours truly. He loved giving parties, so much so that upon his passing his Last Will and Testament funded one last grand party in lieu of a funeral.

The good professor introduced me all around, and after disappearing to attend to his other guests I hit the food and drink. I consumes the equivalent of a Thanksgiving’s worth of calories and spent a good deal of time chatting with an older gal, a photographer named Imogen Cunningham.

She was thoroughly delightful and had a sparkle in her eye. She talked about trying to capture the chrome gleam of motorcycles in a photographic print. I quite enjoyed my time with her and, unfortunately, failed to take advantage of her offer to photograph me and my Honda that summer. Much to my chagrin, I discovered later that her prints hang in some of the great museums of the world and sell for many thousands of dollars!

During the party Professor Littlejohn invited me into the house where he informed me and a coed that the party was in our honor! He told us that he threw a garden party every year for students he thought could make the grade professionally!

“WOW!” I tried my best to listen to everything else he told us, but it all sounded like something that just really wasn’t happening.

The always dapper, always helpful M. Trudeau

The always dapper, always helpful Pierre Trudeau

But it was happening, and it resulted in a wake-up call for my nascent movie reviewer career, during which I asked myself, “Do you really want to pursue becoming a film critic? Do you really want to spend year after year like a mushroom sitting in dark places watching light flickering on a screen? Do you really want to spend your time conjuring witty and clever things to say about them afterwards? Does that sound like something you’d really like to do? Does that sound like fun?”

“Hell no!” I shouted out loud my answer to myself. “HELL NO!”

And that was that! That was the end of any aspirations I had for a movie reviewing career. Nope, I decided I really did want to write poetry! And that’s just what I did … after I figured out how to escape from the traffic-grid-prison of the Bay Area, make money, live well and have time to follow my muse.

And miraculously all of that did come to pass with help from none other than Pierre Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada … but that’s another story.



About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
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